It’s that time of year: Teachers have wrapped up their lesson plans, students have all handed in their finals, the physical education department has packed away the sports equipment and the school nutrition staff have hung up their aprons. Summer is here!
For many, the final toll of the school bell is full of promise. Days spent splashing around the pool, riding bikes with friends and competing in watermelon seed-spitting contests lie ahead! But for some, summer takes on a different meaning. For the child who remembers the times he had to go without lunch last summer while his mom was working two jobs, summer can mean being hungry. For the single dad who is struggling to figure out how to cover the extra costs of feeding his kids now that they aren’t receiving breakfast and lunch at school, summer can mean feeling stressed.
But it doesn’t have to be that way… USDA’s summer meals programs make it easy for children to continue receiving the daily meals they need when school is out for the summer. At tens of thousands of sites across the country, kids and teens 18-years-old or younger can come together in a safe environment to eat healthy meals at no cost. Often, the sites offer opportunities to engage in educational and physical activities as well. These sites are strategically located in areas where many children receive free and reduced-price meals during the school year, to ensure access for those who need it most.
Last year, USDA served about 3.8 million children more than 190 million meals through the summer meals programs! But this still only represents about one in six of the children who receive free and reduced-price meals during the school year. That is the critical summer meals gap we’re working tirelessly to fill. The goal of the summer meals programs is to fuel children and teens to reach their highest potential, but that can only be done if families know about the programs and how to find a site near them. That’s where you come in!
As parents, teachers and/or community leaders, you can be a summer meals champion by helping to spread the word in your communities. Pass out information at school, tell your neighbors, announce it at sports practices, send an email blast through your community listserv, post it on Facebook or ask to post a flier at your local grocery store—it doesn’t matter how we get the word out about the summer meals programs, just that we do. Together, we can give kids and teens the summer they deserve and ensure they return to school in the fall fueled up and ready to learn!
Find a Site Near You:
- Visit the Summer Meals site finder (in English and Spanish; mobile version available)
- Call (866) 348-6479 (English) or (877) 842-6273 (Spanish)
Text FOOD (English) or COMIDA (Spanish) to 877-877, operated by a USDA partner
You can also find Summer Meals promotional materials and resources, and learn how to participate in the program.
Dr. Katie Wilson is the Deputy Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).